WHAT: Meeting for Murray- Lasaine parents to discuss the implementation of Montessori
WHERE: Murray-Lasaine Elementary School, 691 Riverland Dr., James Island.
WHEN: 6:30 p.m. June 30
The blue signs dotting the room at the Charleston County School Board meeting Monday made it clear what more than 20 parents and James Island residents wanted to say.
The signs read: "Yes full Montessori." About seven people spoke during the public comment period in favor of continuing with a plan to make Murray-Lasaine Elementary exclusively Montessori by 2020 and more than 20 people stood in support of Montessori at the James Island school.
The show of support comes after a different group of parents from the school raised concerns at school board meetings earlier this year. Those parents said they would like the school to continue offering both traditional and Montessori classes, which they insist is what school district officials told a neighborhood committee would happen.
Parents who oppose the full implementation of Montessori at Murray-Lasaine also attended the meeting on Monday waiving signs reading "Murray Lasaine teachers and parents deceived" and "Surveys? Planning committees? Why...If CCSD already decided?"
The implementation of Montessori at Murray-Lasaine is part of a district-wide effort to provide Montessori curriculum in the county. The district is also transitioning Hursey and James Simons elementary schools to a Montessori curriculum.
Parents with children in Murray Lasaine's Montessori program are passionate about the learning style, which encourages students to work independently with more hands-on instruction.
"It's been a wonderful experience," said Meg Voelker before the meeting.
Voelker, a James Island resident whose children are zoned to go to Murray-Lasaine, said her daughter just finished the first grade in the school's Montessori program after going to a private Montessori school. The school's transition to Montessori, Voelker said, has been very transparent with many public meetings where it was made clear the school would eventually offer only Montessori classes.
Murray-Lasaine teacher Julie Hund, who teaches Montessori classes, told the board it didn't make sense to have both traditional and Montessori classes because it would be difficult to blend the two learning styles.
"It's hard to make changes but sometimes changes are due," Frances Sturgeon told the board. Sturgeon's two adult daughters attended the school, and her great-grandson is currently enrolled in the school's Montessori program.
One person spoke against making the school exclusively Montessori, saying that he worried about where students whose parents who preferred traditional classes would go to school.
The school board on Monday approved a letter that will be sent to parents at Murray-Lasaine, Hursey and James Simons elementaries later this summer that outlines the attendance zone concept the district hopes to implement for those schools in the 2015-2016 school year. The school board plans to task the constituent boards for those schools to redraw the attendance zones so that students whose parents prefer traditional classes will be zoned to go to a traditional elementary school in their area. Students who live in the attendance zones for Murray-Lasaine, Hursey or James Simons will have to apply to go to those schools in the future but will be guaranteed admittance. All students currently enrolled in the schools will be allowed to remain.